Although this is a topic that I’ve spent a lot of time going around and around on, I can keep this post relatively short by asking a single question, and then framing the conversation around it:
What is the proof, actual and definitive, that smart devices (such as iPads) have measurably positive impact–repeatable and repeated–on student learning outcomes at any level?
Honestly, I haven’t seen any such proof that indicates results obtained through the integration of the technology is possible only through the use of that technology. That’s a key consideration in my mind. For example, take a look at the article “Do iPads Really Improve Learning? Did you Miss Anything?” From the article:
From all the data, the tablet group scored 2.1 points higher than the control group on the Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words subtest. This is the only(1/10) statistically significant result from the first phase of the study. For this assessment, students listened to a dictated sentence and wrote it down, which measures students’ level of phonemic awareness and ability to represent sound with letters. ”One of the reasons that we may have seen a jump in that particular subtest is that the apps that we are using for literacy are directly connected to those skills,” said Sue Dorris, administrator at East Auburn Community School in the Auburn School District.
And then a little further in the article:
Mike Muir, Auburn School Department’s Multiple Pathways Leader, explained: “The objective has to be learning, not just getting the technology out there, we are paying attention to app selection and focused on continuous improvement — we aren’t just handing equipment to teachers.” “And the iPad implementation in Auburn was done very carefully, with the research component built in from the start, not added as an after-thought.“
One could argue that the learning outcomes are not so much related to the implementation of any specific technology, but rather the outcomes are improved because of the improved and increased attention around the actual curriculum development to appropriately integrate iPad use in this case. If educators increased their level of curriculum preparation to the same extent, and if they increased the level of interaction with the students (i.e., “How are you doing in with this part of the course?” as opposed to “How are you doing with your use of the iPad?”), we could very well see the same level of outcome improvement.
However, stating that we can address learning challenges through the use of more elbow grease in the curriculum development and instructor-learner interaction processes is not nearly as glamorous as stating that the solution to our learning challenges lies in implementing a new one-student-one-device policy across the board.